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Sarasota Thursday, Apr. 17, 2014 3 years ago

City attorney sides with residents on complaints

by: David Conway Deputy Managing Editor

City officials indicated they were ready to approve an updated traffic study for a planned bayfront condominium/hotel, but nearby residents want them to hit the brakes on the development until the city addresses their concerns.

David Gurley, a lawyer representing residents of the Tower Residences at the Ritz-Carlton, wrote a letter April 11 to City Manager Tom Barwin about the traffic study for the Vue Sarasota Bay development. Gurley alleges the traffic study — revised this month after an earlier challenge from nearby residents — still fails to meet standards outlined in the city code.

City Attorney Robert Fournier agreed with Gurley’s complaints, and has asked consulting firm Kimley-Horn to produce another revision before he approves the traffic study. Fournier’s decision came on the heels of an April 7 public meeting regarding Vue Sarasota Bay, at which Neighborhood and Development Services Director Tim Litchet said he was willing to grant the development its traffic concurrency certificate pending legal approval.

The traffic study identifies two circulation issues affecting Ritz-Carlton Drive, Watergate Drive, Cedar Point Drive and Sunset Drive. Gurley said the study fails to recommend strategies for addressing these issues, and that code requires the study to provide those strategies.

“The study shall recommend mitigation strategies for solving any circulation issues,” the code says.

Kimley-Horn Vice President Christopher Hatton said the severity of some internal circulation issues near Vue Sarasota Bay would not be known until the project was completed because of how it interacts with nearby properties, such as the valet at the Ritz-Carlton. Until then, he said, it’s too early to provide a realistic plan for addressing certain issues.

“You have to see how it's working, then work with the developer,” Hatton said.

Several attendees of the April 7 meeting weren’t satisfied with that response — and neither was Fournier. He acknowledged that certain internal issues were not caused solely by Vue Sarasota Bay, but said the traffic study still has to make the recommendations required in the code.

“It doesn’t mean that everyone will be happy with the mitigation strategies they might suggest; they might suggest things the residents don’t like,” Fournier said. “At least they have done what the code requires them to do.”

Fournier said he believed the process of amending the traffic study should move quickly. Until the city grants Vue Sarasota Bay its traffic concurrency certificate, nearby residents will continue to push the city to take a closer look at potential traffic issues surrounding the project.

“I hear the city manager and commissioners will be pretty busy answering questions from a lot of folks who are pretty angry over how this basic service issue is being handled,” Gurley said.

Contact David Conway at [email protected]


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